On Monday, the fourth installment of the World Baseball Classic will kick off in Seoul, South Korea. The tournament which likens itself to soccer’s World Cup features 16 teams divided into four pools and plays in six different cities across the globe. The defending champion is a star-studded team from the Dominican Republic that is looking to defend its 2013 title, but there is expected to be some strong competition from the United States, Japanese and Venezuelan squads.
The idea of the World Baseball Classic is a great one. It is a tournament that brings together the world’s greatest ball players every four years and gives the players a chance to show their national pride and represent their home countries on a worldwide stage. It is great for the fans, it’s a chance for the players to give back to their countries, and overall it has proven to be a fun event for everyone involved. But there are a few things that rub me the wrong way about this thing.
Number one is that the scheduling of the World Baseball Classic still puzzles me. Why would the World Baseball Softball Confederation schedule a tournament that showcases some of Major League Baseball’s top talents in the midst of spring training? Yes, the WBSC and MLB are separate entities but if I were an MLB owner, general manager or coach I would be uncomfortable sending my players to this showcase. This is the time of year that players are supposed to be working themselves back into shape for the upcoming season - not for playing full throttle, passionate ballgames. Like I mentioned before, this a wonderful opportunity for players to show national pride and represent their country, but right now a WBC championship cannot hold a candle to a World Series crown.
My second concern is that the Major League Baseball season is already long enough and there is no telling how many games or how much usage some of these players will get while in the tournament. For pitchers, in particular, this cannot bode well for their upcoming season in the big leagues. A lot of MLB teams already have their pitchers on a pitch count and if I’m a pitching coach you can sure as hell bet that I am not going to be happy with the extra stress they are putting on their arms before the season has even started.
As a Mets fan, I am happy to say that none of the Amazin’s starting pitchers will be playing. But for teams that do have their star pitchers playing, this has to be concerning to their fan base. A handful of talented MLB pitchers were wise to decline the invitation to the tournament. Madison Bumgarner, Chris Sale, Noah Syndergaard, Clayton Kershaw and Corey Kluber all turned down the opportunity to play for Team USA.
I will probably get around to watching some of these games as it gets deeper into the tournament, but for the time being I must attend to my Mets. David Wright’s setback in his return to the diamond and the suspense of whether Zack Wheeler will ever take the mound in the for the Mets. My main baseball focus will be elsewhere.